I hate cauliflower. Or at least, I did hate it. But I recently discovered that like its friend the red bell pepper, it tastes great when it’s nearly burned. Let me explain. I kept seeing variations of a certain recipe floating around on food blogs. The first time I dismissed it outright. I mean, it had cauliflower in it. Yuck. But then I kept seeing it, again and again, and I guess eventually some part of my brain thought “hey, this many people can’t be wrong.” So I made it and oh my was it good. Surprisingly good. Plus I can feel good about eating it because it has three vegetables. Oh yeah, and it’s the perfect vehicle for the ever-important parmesan.
I roasted my bell pepper by sticking it over the open flame on our hob (stovetop) and rotating it with tongs until it was evenly charred. You can also do this easily on the grill or, if you’re afraid of fire, you can crank the oven and put it under the broiler until the skin blisters and the whole thing goes limp. Also, we didn’t have any fresh herbs on hand when I made this but I’m sure it would be delicious with a sprinkling of parsley, mint or thyme, etc.
Pasta with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower and Red Pepper
adapted from a bunch of different places, like this and this
1/2 pound dry pasta (1/2 a box), I used spirali (like these but broken into short pieces)
1 red bell pepper
2 T olive oil, plus more for dressing
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp kosher salt
Roast the pepper using one of the three methods described above. When it is thoroughly charred, put it inside a paper or zip-top bag and seal tightly. Allow to rest at least 5 minutes. Remove pepper from bag and peel off burnt skin. If you did a good job charring it the skin should slip right off. Slice the pepper into strips and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain but reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot but not smoking. Add cauliflower and toss to coat evenly. Use a wooden spoon to shuffle florets into one even layer, making sure they have as much contact as possible with the hot skillet. We are trying to brown them and get some crispy edges. Cook cauliflower until it begins to brown and soften a bit, about seven minutes, turning it once or twice so the florets are browned on all sides. I also added a few tablespoons of water to the pan to help things along a bit because my big pieces weren’t cooking fast enough. After about seven minutes, add the onion and pepper flakes. Cook another two minutes or so, then add the garlic and reserved roasted pepper. Season with salt and cook one minute more, until garlic is very fragrant. Remove from heat and toss with pasta. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water or a glug of olive oil if it seems too dry. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Top with parm. Yum.